Saturday, October 9, 2010

Tattoo Designs - Kanji Symbols and What They Mean

Japanese Kanji symbols are very popular as tattoos as they are unique and they can convey a very personal and meaningful message in an artistic and exotic way.

Complex language

Kanji is one of three different types of alphabet character symbols used in a complex system of writing. The other two are Hiragana and Katakana. All three are used in different ways. Kanji conveys ideas in picture form, which may not always convey the exact meaning. Hiragana is sometimes used with the Kanji to modify or clarify the meaning.

Hiragana is used more for everyday use while Katakana is used mainly when dealing with foreign names.

The Japanese language contains literally thousands of characters. These were adopted from the Chinese, which have anywhere between 50,000 and 100,000 characters. Scholars disagree on the number but, as you can see, it is a lot. In everyday use in Japan there are around 2000 - 3000 characters.

Multiple meanings
One of the major pitfalls in choosing a Kanji tattoo is the actual meaning of the symbol. The meaning can depend on the context and can have up to ten different meanings. It is essential to do some research before having a permanent symbol on your body. Make sure you get an accurate translation or, better still, use an artist who understands Japanese. Some artists are reluctant to do Kanji because they are not sure of the meanings.

There can be good reasons for getting a Kanji tattoo - with one symbol you can express a thought or an idea or a philosophy and you can do it in an artistic and different way. However, Kanji is limited, as its symbol will express a simple picture or expression. It does not lend itself to more involved quotes or phrases. One of the other scripts may have to be used with Kanji to express your words. This is where an artist's knowledge of Japanese can become important.

Artistic expression

Japanese calligraphy is an art form. In fact, one artist believes the meaning of the symbol is unimportant as it is more about the look and flow of the script - more about the artistic expression. This would not suit everyone, as most people like to use a tattoo to convey a message to themselves or others. However, for those who do want to express themselves artistically, the opportunity is there.

Kanji tattoos can be attractive, artistic and meaningful, but they can be a trap for the unwary. Do your homework and make sure your tattoo means what you want it to mean.

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